To the Editors:
With our district poised to enact sweeping changes that will affect not only our schools but our entire community, it is essential that we elect to our Board of Education representatives who have the skills, the experience, and the empathy to thoughtfully and responsibly act on behalf of all the stakeholders in our towns. I believe that Shannon Cuttle is the candidate who will best serve the interests of our parents, our teachers, our professional staff, our administrators, our homeowners, and most important, our students.
I have been very impressed over the past couple of years in watching Shannon work to improve our school district and community and in learning about what they’ve done across the country. Shannon is a national leader in combatting bullying and discrimination in schools, in school systems, and in communities. They were instrumental in the formulation and passage of the District of Columbia’s Youth Bullying Prevention Act, and organized conferences with the Obama administration on protecting our nation’s youngsters. In recent years, Shannon has been a passionate voice for the rights of all SOMA students. Shannon helped to create the Maplewood Youth Advisory Committee, and has assisted student groups in their efforts to fight against gun violence and for school safety, equity, and equality, as well as volunteering for CHS Midnight Madness, the Prom Pop-Up Shop, and co-organizing the CHS Food Pantry.
Shannon has served for more than twenty years as an education professional, having been a teacher, a policymaker, and an organizer, with expertise in crisis prevention and emergency management. Their experience as an advocate, though, goes back even further than that: When they were in elementary school, they organized a protest among their fellow fifth graders to support a custodian whom they felt was being treated unfairly by the school administration. They succeeded not only in getting his status restored, they formed a close relationship with the principal whose actions they opposed. That seems typical of the methods they’ve used throughout their career, working collaboratively and building partnerships to achieve results.
Shannon already brings their considerable skills and compassion to bear in making the South Orange-Maplewood School district a more equitable and equal place for students. I believe that as a member of the Board of Education, they will be an important independent voice in demanding that our schools’ facilities upgrades and proposed restructuring be planned and implemented to ensure fairness for students, teachers, and staff all over the district, and practicality and expediency for parents and taxpayers. Shannon has a proven record of working successfully at both the high level of education policy and at the ground level of making a difference for individual students in our schools and mentoring those students to raise their own voices.
I enthusiastically endorse Shannon Cuttle for BOE and I hope you will join me in voting for Shannon on Nov. 6.